Today, payments for goods and services are made at the click of a few buttons. As easy as the process seems, the journey to this point was long and arduous, and despite the ease associated with digital payments, there are many who remain outside that bracket- the unbanked who require tailored products and services to suit their unique circumstances and lifestyles.
Let’s take Faith as an example; a petty trader whose money has always been kept in a box under her bed because she has a distrust of traditional banks. Also, the many of new-age digital solutions do not seem to adequately meet her needs, as she is not a digitally savvy individual, and the services of many financial technology companies, although aesthetically appealing and efficient, do not take into cognizance the limitations and skepticism of people like her.
Feeling excluded, she searches for alternatives and is yet to find one that addresses her pain points: a product that empowers her with the ease and agility to handle her finances, and ready access to other financial services such as loans and investment options, which will empower her to access the privileges accorded to those who are part of the digital economy.
From the story of Faith, and millions like her around Nigeria, it is obvious that although a lot of progress has been made with the financial inclusion drive, there is still much ground to be covered through the development of more digital solutions tailored to the needs of the unbanked.
This realization led to the birth of the idea called Grassroots developed by three individuals: Athanasius Lawrence, Amarachi Nwoke and Chigozilai Kejeh, staff contestants and winners of the just-concluded Technovation 2.0 hackathon organized by Interswitch; a trio who believes that financial exclusion presents an interesting challenge with a big opportunity for financial institutions in Nigeria.
Since the first edition of the competition, the Technovation hackathon has continued to challenge Interswitch employees to strive for excellence by stimulating their creative juices towards the development of products and services that solve real-world problems.
At the start of the Technovation 2.0 competition, teams of Interswitch employees submitted entries and following a keenly contested shortlisting phase, the top five teams were selected as semi-finalists to pitch their brilliant ideas at the grand finale event.
The event, which was held at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos on Friday, July 7, gave the teams - The Pioneers, The Paystars, Team Flash, The Innovators, and Team Spark, an opportunity to showcase their brilliant ideas before a panel of judges which comprised top Interswitch Executives.
In fourth place, and carting away a cash prize of N300,00, was The Pioneers team who had developed a solution targeted at the healthcare sector.
Team Innovators came third for developing a platform that helps consumers make informed decisions by comparing products and services. Following closely on their heels was The Paystars team, coming in second place with a prototype that provides consumers with fast and convenient meal options from a wide variety of vendors. Both teams were rewarded with the sum of N500,000 each.
Clinching the first runner-up spot was Team Spark, demoing a robust solution developed to help small- and large-scale businesses to better track their recurring expenses. Coming tops at the Technovation 2.0 challenge was Team Flash, taking home the grand prize of N1,000,000 for the Grassroots prototype.
According to Akeem Lawal, Managing Director, Payment Processing & Switching (Interswitch Purepay), the winning Grassroots solution will go on to get funding from Interswitch, while also receiving all the necessary resources needed to launch and take it to market.
Earlier, Lawal had described the Technovation2.0 hackathon as "a testament to Interswitch’s commitment to innovation and its unwavering belief in the transformative power of technology." He also added that Interswitch's support of its staff members in developing ingenious and impactful solutions was in alignment with the company's overarching goal to "create a brighter future for Africa."
After an exciting day of pitches and wins, the activities culminated in an after-party; a colourful and vibrant affair where the Technovation participants, supporters and other attendees from the Interswitch community celebrated with gusto.